Alternative Origins

“So they all ate and were filled.
And they took up twelve baskets
full of the fragments that remained.”
(
Mt 14:20)

The entire validity of Christianity is based on the historical truth of this one statement. The centrality of the Christian world view finds its foundation in the meaning of what historically took place on this occasion when Jesus of Nazareth fed 5,000 men, plus women and children, in a wilderness somewhere in Galilee. The importance of this historical event is so central to the truth of the existence of God, and the claim that Jesus is the Son of God, that this is the only miraculous event of Jesus that is mentioned by all four historians of Jesus’ ministry (See Mt 14:13-21; Mk 6:30-44; Lk 9:10-17; Jn 6:1-14). We could certainly conclude that if one does not believe in the twelve baskets full of leftovers, then he or she does not have the faith that is pleasing to God (Hb 11:6). The baskets were indeed full, but if one does not believe this, then his faith is empty.

The purpose for which the apostle John wrote his history of Jesus emphasizes the importance of this event in reference to who Jesus of Nazareth really was. In his document to explain to disciples of Jesus who lived many years after this event, John recorded seven specific miraculous wonders of Jesus for the purpose that the followers of Jesus believe that He “is the Christ, the Son of God” (Jn 20:31). Both Jesus and John wanted to take the disciples far beyond simply being disciples of Him as a religious leader. John wanted us to understand that Jesus was not only the Messiah (Christ), but also the Son of God. Throughout His ministry, Jesus had claimed, “I came down from heaven” (Jn 6:38). He also claimed, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). And even more definitive, Jesus claimed, “I and My Father are one” (Jn 10:30). The twelve baskets full of leftover fish and bread after the feeding of approximately ten thousand people validates all these claims.

We are not shallow in our understanding of what actually took place on that surreal occasion when Jesus stood among His disciples and the multitudes who had followed Him into the wilderness. Counting men, women and children, there could have been as many as ten thousand people in the multitude. The number was incredible, which makes Jesus’ statement somewhat ridiculous when He said to His disciples, “You give them something to eat” (Mt 14:16). The statement sounded ridiculous to the disciples at the time because His immediate disciples still had no idea who He really was. To them, He was a great religious leader to whom they would give their loyalty. But they did not realize that an incarnation of God stood in their midst.

But Jesus was leading His immediate disciples into a reality that their loyalty to Him must be far greater than following Him as a great religious leader. There have been great religious leaders as Confucius, Muhammad and Buddha who have led millions of people throughout the centuries. However, Jesus was more. The fact that He is more is proved by two fish and five loaves of bread that ended up being twelve baskets of leftovers.

Therefore, consider what actually took place on that day in the wilderness that was so surreal that the disciples had a difficult time comprehending what had actually transpired. On the occasion, there was one young boy who evidently had some forethought. He had with him “five barley loaves and two small fish” (Jn 6:9). We wonder why this young boy had in his possessions these five loaves of bread and two fish? Could it have been that it was now time for Jesus to set up the scenario to reveal to everyone that He was more than a religious leader?

We must preface what actually took place with John’s revelation of John 4:24: “God is spirit.” And then in the beginning of John’s document on Jesus of Nazareth being more than a carpenter from Galilee, John revealed some realities that would have actually been quite inconceivable for the disciples to comprehend at the time of the feeding. We must keep in mind that the document of John was written at least thirty years after the event of the loaves and fish.

John wrote that we, as Jesus’ disciples, should conclude these many years after the event what he revealed in John 1:1: “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Therefore, the Word that became flesh was initially spirit before creation because He was God (Jn 1:14). But John did not stop with an inspired dictionary of who this Jesus was whom we now follow. “All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (Jn 1:3). This truth is overwhelming if we consider ourselves “Christians” and followers of One who was first as God in eternal spirit. So God the Holy Spirit, through the hand of Paul, was more definitive: “For by Him [the Word] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth …. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Cl 1:16).

So we go back to the bread and fish. Those fish at the time were surely dead, but they had once been living in some water. The bread had been cooked from living grain. So we start with fish and bread that had been providentially made available for an historical event that has become the center of our world view as Christians.

Throughout the great feast of compassion on that day in the wilderness (Mk 6:34), the text says that everyone ate and was filled (Mt 14:20). And then something marvelous happened, which at the time, was surely so surreal that the disciples had a difficult time processing it in their minds: “They took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained” (Mt 14:20). It takes little mathematics to figure out why this one historical event stands between one simply being a disciple of a famous person called Jesus, and one totally throwing himself down before this God in the flesh. The occasion started with five loaves of bread and two fish. But when the event was over, they ended up with twelve baskets that were completely full of leftover bread and fish. This was an event of creation! And, only God can create. Standing in the midst of those several thousand people in that wilderness place was the incarnate Creator of all things. He was the Creator of all that would sustain the life that He also created.

We are not “Christian” because Jesus pronounced some great spiritual teachings for living. Any religious leader can do that. We do not follow Jesus because He was some renown Jewish Rabbi who generated and led a spiritual movement among Jewish people in the first century. Many religious leaders have had great teachings and led great movements of humanity throughout history. But with Jesus it is different. We follow Jesus because He was the incarnate Creator who came into this world in the flesh of man (Jn 1:14). It was because He was God in the flesh that the cross of redemption means more that an accidental death from the hands of a mob.

Jesus was not a martyr. He was God in the flesh who had created those who drove nails through His incarnate flesh on a cross outside Jerusalem. If one does not believe this, then this would mean that one believes that Jesus was nothing more than a great religious sage of His time. It would mean that one follows Christ as the Muslim follows Muhammad, or a Buddhist who follows Buddha. But the fact is that Jesus was truly God on earth. Jesus thus has a right to demand our total commitment, not because of what He said, but because of who He is.

We must follow this reasoning to its limit. If this miracle of creation on the occasion of the wilderness experience did not actually happen, then we have been deceived. Our imagination of Jesus as being someone beyond this world has carried us away to believe a fable. But if there were twelve full baskets, then this was God in the flesh who was the Creator of all life on earth. The fact that He started with five and two, and ended up with that which could be counted only as baskets full of leftovers is proof that it was the Creator of all things who stood on earth in the midst of those multitudes.

Life originated at the command of God in the beginning. If one would seek an alternative to the existence of life on the earth, then that search is a denial of the God who stood in the midst of several thousand people in Galilee and created twelve baskets full of leftovers from five loaves and two fish. Those twelve baskets will always validate the fact that the One to whom we have given our lives was the actual incarnate God who originally created all things.

If one believes that life originated from another source than the One who stood among the disciples in the wilderness, then he or she is not a true believer in the Son of God. If one believes that it was only a fable that there were baskets full leftovers, then he has denied the gospel. If Jesus were not the origin of all life, then it would be foolish to believe that He can bless with eternal life those who believe on Him. If the Son of God had no power to originally create all life, then He has no power to give life.

But we believe. We believe that Jesus was God incarnate who came into this world in order to offer us eternal life. Such was the theme for the document of John: “These [miracles] are written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life through His name” (Jn 20:31).

[Next in series: June 3]

Attack Of Religious Atheism

Romans 1:18-32 is a statement of warning to all humanity today that if we give up a knowledge of the God of creation, then we are doomed. And since the world is giving up a knowledge of the God of the Bible, then we are definitely doomed. We might add that it is not simply giving up a knowledge of “God,” but the giving up of a knowledge of a God who can create. When we substitute for creation another source for origins, then we are on our way to denying the God of the Bible. We will often retain our religiosity in this atheistic move away from God. If we move away from the God of creation, then we have created in our minds an impotent god who is not the source of the universe and all life.

There are certainly numerous gods in the minds of religious people throughout the world today, but there is only one God of creation. This one God must be the God who is the original source of all things, and especially the source of the incarnate Son of God. If He is not, then he is a god we have imagined after our own religious ingenuity.

It is significant that God the Holy Spirit directed the hand of Paul to include one penetrating statement in the context of Romans 1 that went straight to the reason why humanity was without excuse when it came time for God to bring judgment upon an entire civilization. In the context of Romans 1, the Holy Spirit did not want us to miss this critical point in reference to what causes such human tragedies. Therefore, in the context of the subject of Romans 1, verse 20 is not simply a statement to read. It is a serious thought to contemplate, and thus, reflect on continually as we study through the subjects that follow in this book.

“For the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood [perceived] by the things that are made, even His eternal power and divinity, so that they are without excuse.”

The God of creation did not leave Himself without witness. His existence is continually revealed through the things that He created (See At 17:24-28). The psalmist was correct: “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps 19:1). The declaration of the preceding statements is overwhelming. It is overwhelming because we live in a world today where much of the religious world believes “in a Higher Power,” but this power is impotent. He is simply a power in which to believe, but does not have the power to create and control that which He creates. He cannot do what the Holy Spirit claimed He could do in Hebrews 11:3:

“By faith we [true believers] understand that the universe was formed by the word of God, so that the things that are seen were not made of things that are visible.”

We must continue to reflect on this necessary truth that one must believe in order to be considered a “true believer.” If one denies this truth, then he may continue to be a religionist, but he or she is not a true believer according to how the Bible defines a believer. This may be difficult for many religionists to accept, but those who profess to believe in the God of the Bible must come to the conclusion that all that now exists was created out of that which formerly did not exist.

No matter what comes forth from the mouths of the majority of the scientists of the world, this proposition of truth must never be questioned, or denied. Believing in a God who created all things is the foundation upon which the gospel is based. If such a God is impotent, and thus cannot create, then the good news of this God being incarnate into this world is simply foolishness. If we believe in a god who cannot create, then we are “religious atheists” according to the God who is defined in the Bible.

As we travel down this road of reckoning, it is imperative that we draw a “creative line” between true faith and religion that questions a God who has the power to create, as well as resurrect. Any philosophy that comes forth from the field of science that contradicts this truth, must be considered false. Any religion that arises wherein are theologies that question creation or resurrection, is atheistic, and subsequently an attack against the gospel. Any philosophy that strikes a creative God out of the picture of establishing moral standards, must be considered false.

It is not that the Holy Spirit did not see this threat always present in our world, and thus of necessity not challenge true believers in these matters. He knew that we would continually be challenged in our faith by those who would deny the God of the Bible. Fearfully, therefore, we believe that long ago we moved into a philosophical and scientific world that has invaded the “faith” of many who profess to be “Christian.” It is because of this invasion that the very core of the gospel of Jesus Christ is under attack.

In view of the following exhortation by the Holy Spirit through Paul in Romans 1, a better definition could not have been made to explain atheistic religion. It was in reference to this religiosity that Paul warned Timothy in the following words:

“O Timothy, guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings and opposing arguments of what is falsely called knowledge [science], which some professing have strayed concerning the faith” (1 Tm 6:20,21).

We use the word “atheist” in reference to those religionists who do not believe that all life is the result of a God who can create and resurrect. We could also use the word “agnostic” in reference to those who may be ignorant of the word of God on this matter, but still hold on to a sprinkling of faith in Jesus. But if one does not believe in the God of creation, he will deny the miracles of the Bible, and eventually the incarnation of the Son of God. For the sake of consistency, he must deny the resurrection of Jesus. In reference to biblical definitions, therefore, he is an atheist in reference to the God of the Bible.

We must dig deeply into the inner core of our world view on these matters. The problem is that when the majority of those who profess to be “believers,” have accepted those propositions that deny the creative God of all things, then that majority seeks to lead us astray. When a world of religionists does this, then the religion of the world becomes an atheistic religion that intimidates the rest of the world to create gods that actually exists only in the minds of men. And then, what comes next is inevitable.

“God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gn 6:5).

[Next in series: June 1]

Atheistic Religion

We set forth the propositions of our study in order to challenge the thinking of those who have turned away from faith in the God who can create. If we remind ourselves that we believe in a God who can and did create, then we are reaffirming our faith. If our world view is based solidly on the Bible, then our study in these matters will be both refreshing and reassuring. However, if we discover in our world view points that contradict any truth of the word of God, then this study must be an opportunity to restore our faith to the foundation of the word of God. Therefore, we would be negligent in our responsibility as Christians if we did not continually allow ourselves to be challenged in these matters. We must continually challenge ourselves in these matters in view of the following moral decline that once led to the termination of an entire civilization by the One who created the world:

“… because even though they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful. But they became vain in their imaginations and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rm 1:21,22).

We live in such a world today. It is quite discomforting to realize that history is indeed repeating itself. We live in a world where the scientific world does not glorify God as a God of creation. Belief in an impotent God has actually become a central point in the world view of many who would consider themselves to be Christians. There is a reason today why many “Christians” do not live in gratitude of a creative God who was incarnate in the flesh of man. If one does not appreciate the extreme journey of the God of creation who came forth from existence in spirit into the flesh of man, whom He created for redemptive purposes, then there is little encouragement on the part of man to live in gratitude for that which was accomplished on a cross.

Because society often accepts unquestionably the pronouncements of the modern-day scientific world, the citizens of society often establish their moral codes of conduct on the foundation of the philosophical conclusions of science. Subsequently, Paul wrote to the Roman disciples, “their imaginations and their foolish hearts” become darkened to the righteousness of God. They profess to be wise in their own thinking, but actually they have become foolish by rejecting the fact that the world is the result of a creating God. We must not forget that it was God who said that the scientist who does not believe in God is actually a fool: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps 14:1)

Therefore, we would ask why such antagonistic beliefs against true Bible faith are now propagated around the world against the faith of those who seek to remain with the Bible as their foundation for faith? The apostle Paul gave a simple answer: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped [narcissism] and served the creature [man] rather than the Creator” (Rm 1:25). When the standard of God is removed from the center of reference of our world view, it is then that men “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rm 1:18). It is then that we become the center of reference to our own “faith.” We subsequently exalt our own knowledge over the truth of the Bible. We establish our own religiosity that is based on our own desires. When the moral values of our narcissistic religiosity does not conform to the majority, then we change our moral values.

In our humanistic narcissism, we lead ourselves to exclude the knowledge of God as we exalt our own knowledge. This is the world in which we now live. We live in a world where narcissistic scientists have bowed down to the god of science, believing that science has the answers for all situations of life. When this science god has created within us the fear of infecting our own selves, then it has accomplished the task of attacking the very behavioral nature of Christianity, that we consider one another by not forsaking being together with one another (Hb 10:24,25). If a Christian exalts this science god in his own world view, then the gospel that brings us together into a common fellowship no longer plays the primary role of motivation of our lives.

The text of Romans 1:18-32 was written in order to remind us all of an era in history when humanity became evil. It became evil through narcissistic religiosity, that is, giving up a knowledge of the one true and living God in order to worship gods that they had created after their own imaginations (Rm 1:25,28,29. Romans 1 is a literary picture of the sociological conditions that led to the demise of a world civilization several millennia in the past.

Romans 1 was God’s dissertation about the depraved social conditions of a world civilization that existed before the flood of Noah’s day—which in a state of denial the unbelieving world today declares to be a fable. The main points of Romans 1, therefore, are God’s justification for wiping away that civilization of humanity, as well as Israel of old when the people forsook the standard of the word of God in order to establish their own moral standards (Hs 4:6).

We would certainly be naive Bible believers if we did not understand that our present world is headed in the same direction. We must not forget that individual societies within the whole world civilization do not become morally better because they believe more in the Bible. They become morally worse because they have rejected the Bible and the God who is identified therein. Gods are created by religionists around the world, but these gods must not be confused with the God of the Bible. When all the societies of the world digress together into moral degradation, it is then that we become as the world civilization that existed at the time of Noah (See Gn 6:5).

[Next in series: May 29]

God Of Creation

We must never forget that in any move away from the God that is defined in the Bible, it is a move into the realm of unrighteousness that is defined in the Bible (See Rm 1:28-32). The reason for this is simple. One moves away from God because he or she is often seeking an escape from moral accountability. He is at least seeking to behave narcissistically according to his own codes of moral behavior. The Bible can never stand as a final authority in a society of either atheistic philosophies or narcissistic religiosity.

For those who are seeking to establish their own moral norms, the Bible becomes a hindrance to their moral move away from any standards of morality because it is a reminder of being accountable to a final Judge of our behavior. In the mind of the liberal progressive, therefore, there can never be a constant standard of morality. Such is simply contrary to the thinking of the liberal.

The definition of a “liberal” is one who is seeking to be liberated from any standards of moral authority. And since the Bible seeks to be the final moral standard of authority in all matters of morality, then the Bible must, in the minds of the liberal, be discarded. Since the Bible establishes a constant moral standard, then the Bible must at least be marginalized in its influence on society. In order to do this, the first attack against the Bible is to affirm that the Bible is a book of fables.

Those who have moved away from the God of creation, and subsequently created a god after their own imagination, usually do not consider any moral standards in the Bible that are unchangeable. If they do look back from where they once believed in the Bible, then they will look back and realize that their move into unbelief was not painful. It was not painful because there was no violation of one’s conscience in reference to the breaking any moral laws. Unbelief is like a cancer that unknowingly grows within the body. This was the path to moral apostasy that was followed by Israel through the many times in their history when they walked away from God. Therefore, these things concerning their apostasy “were written for our learning, so that we through patience and encouragement of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rm 15:4). We must remember that “these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Co 10:11).

A moral cancer has grown in many places in the present world of Christendom over the past centuries. With the rise of the “science god” there has come also the demise of the word of God as the final research library to establish moral standards of conduct. This does not mean that people have knowingly become “religious atheists” in reference to the moral standards of the Bible. It simply means that people who once believed in a God of creation now believe in a god who cannot create, or at least a deistic god who supposedly manipulates innate matter into motion and life. These religionists are now harboring and abating those philosophies that are contrary to the world view of the Bible. In their efforts to conform to the philosophical and scientific world in which they live, they have sacrificed on the altar of humanism their own faith. They are truly “of those who draw back to destruction” because they are walking away from King Jesus (Hb 10:39).

Because of the impending destruction that awaits all who would deny the gospel of the one true and living God, we would repeat the warning of the Hebrew writer that was directed to all those who were walking away from King Jesus: “We must give more earnest attention to the things that we have heard so that we do not drift away” (Hb 2:1). “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened … if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame” (Hb 6:4,6). “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel], there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hb 10:26).

[Next in series: May 26]

Identifying True Believers

One of the unfortunate struggles that Christians have in a world of unbelief is that the philosophy of the unbelieving world has often become the standard by which society establishes norms of moral behavior. Since the rise of the god of science a few centuries ago, this has been a particular problem for those who believe that the Bible must always be our final authority in establishing moral conduct. Unfortunately, we have discovered that many Christians have accepted some of the moral norms of unbelievers, and thus in many ways have conformed the behavior of their faith to the thinking of an unbelieving world.

The preceding is such a problem in the modern world that anyone who would question the invasion of either atheistic, or at least agnostic philosophies into the realm of “Christianity,” are consider unscientific. This is a constant challenge against those who believe in the historical statements of the Bible. In the context of this discussion, therefore, we understand that the word “believer” refers to one who unquestionably views the Bible as the final authority in all matters of faith and conduct. This is especially true in reference to the biblical claim concerning origins.

The true believer understands that the history of the Bible is infallible. He or she understands that there is absolutely no scientific “truth” or “fact” that would contradict the existence of the Son of God in reference to His incarnational offering on a cross two thousands years ago. The historical claims of the Bible in reference to the origin of all things are without question, and thus any “scientific” hypothesis that would come forth from the field of science that contradicts the Bible must be considered false. If a supposed scientific hypothesis, or supposed fact, is presented as the final truth in any matter of morals or history, then that hypothesis must be considered false if it in any way contradicts the moral standards of the Bible. This must be the position of the believer. If it is not, then the Bible cannot be trusted in reference to history. It cannot be considered a final standard for determining moral behavior. It cannot be considered the inspired word of God.

The point of our concern, therefore, is to consider the fact that the some believers may have accepted as either “truth” or “fact” some supposed “scientific” hypothesis that are contrary to the Bible, and thus are an attack against the gospel. We live in a world where the scientific world has forsaken the Bible to be any final authority in matters of science or philosophy. For this reason, therefore, Christians must assume that these two fields of study will move our civilization away from God. If we are led to question the truth of the gospel of the incarnate Son of God, His atoning death, and gospel ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven, then we must understand that our faith as defined by the Bible is gone. Therefore, any philosophy or supposed scientific fact that would lead us to question a Bible-based fact or historical statement must immediately be rejected. For the Christian, the Bible must not be considered just another book of religion. It must be considered the only book of a faith that is pleasing to God (Hb 11:6).

[Next in series: May 23]

Imminent Attacks

We speak of things that are more philosophical than theological. We seek to reason with those in the camp of unbelievers in order to defend better those in the camp of the believers. We have found that many theological authors have some difficulty understanding the reasoning of unbelievers because they are so committed to the experiential function of their own faith, which supposed experiential evidence is totally rejected by unbelievers. For this reason, some “Christian” writers have difficulty dealing with the onslaught that unbelievers are making against the world view of those who believe in a God who created this world. We have found that many religious writers are so focused on writing “feel good” books about their own personal experiences that they are out of touch with the real world in which their readers live. They thus leave their readers vulnerable in answering the questions that unbelievers launch against the faith of believers. The argument of “what-Jesus-has-done-in-my-life,” carries no rational weight in the mind unbelievers who contend that Jesus’ turning of water into wine was simply a children’s Bible-class fable.

We must better understand the world view of unbelief if we are to guard ourselves from being deceived by what may appear to be scientifically or philosophically true. There are many points of the unbeliever’s world view that definitely deny the faith of those who believe in the Bible. Our efforts to understand the thinking of unbelievers assumes, therefore, that we must deal specifically with those points that inherently deny the inerrancy of the Bible, and specifically the gospel. When we better understand the world view of the unbeliever, then we can conclude that there are some who hang on to the name “Christian,” and yet, they have adopted various points of the world view of the unbelieving world that attack the gospel. In doing this, they themselves have attacked the gospel. In the world of religion in which we now live, many of the attacks against the gospel are now coming from religionists, not self-proclaimed atheists or agnostics.

Our purpose for understanding the thinking of unbelievers, therefore, is imperative because this is the origin of some points in the thinking of some religionists who have succumbed to the world view of the unbelieving world. The better we understand the position of the unbelievers, and specifically the world of the scientists of our day, the better we will conclude that there is a real attack against the gospel in these times. In the developed world almost all graduates from universities have sat at the feet of professors who deny the Bible to be infallible. The result is that we now have a citizenship of these cultures that is basically antagonistic to the Bible. This skepticism in reference to the Bible is now so great that few of those who believe in the gospel actually realize that there is a war going on between science and the faith of those who believe in a creative God of the universe.

But the opposition is more pronounced in reference to the new wave of religious tolerance that is currently spreading around the world among all people of faith. In order not to be misunderstood, we must state firmly that religious tolerance must be an central part of our world view. Every person has a right to believe what they so desire in reference to their faith. This right (freedom) to be religious according to one’s own heritage or traditions is simply the world in which we live. It is also a part of the gospel, because one must voluntarily respond to the love of God that was revealed through the incarnate Son of God. There can never be any government intimidation for one to obey the gospel. Likewise, there can never be intimidation by a religion that is promoted by the majority of the citizenship that one obey the gospel. Obedience to the gospel must always be a voluntary respond to the grace of God. Nevertheless, this freedom can be a problem for those who believe in a God who created all things, and subsequently offered His incarnate Son for the salvation of those whom He had created.

Tolerance does not assume the acceptance of the beliefs of a religious world that is filled with that which is not true, especially that which is contrary to the gospel. Unfortunately, in democratic societies, citizens are often pressured into being tolerant of all religions in order to maintain a separation between faith and state. If in a democracy a particular politician seeks to be elected, he or she must maintain a policy of tolerance toward all faiths that exist within the democratic society where he is seeking the votes of the people. However, though this may be necessary to maintain unity in a state that is comprised of many religious groups, this is not the way it is with God and the gospel. His people have no right to compromise the gospel.

Those who are in a covenant relationship with God because of their obedience to the gospel can tolerate the religionists in the community who have not obeyed the gospel. However, they cannot accept the teaching of those who do not accept the Bible as the final authority in all matters of faith. Christians can tolerate religious Hindus, but they cannot accept the beliefs of Hindus, and at the same time, maintain a covenant relationship with God. The entire book of Hebrews was written on this matter. If a Christian would forsake any points of truth in his gospel-founded world view, then or she has turned away from the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (See Hb 2:1-4; 6:4-6).

The camp of believers today has some inherent struggles in being consistent in reference to their relationship with other faiths. This is particularly true in reference of some who would seek to compromise the gospel of God’s grace. We have even discovered that the secular philosophies of the unbelieving world are so strong in many societies that many of those in the camp of religion have succumbed to humanistic explanations for origins in order to be accepted by those of the secular world. Subsequently, there are some who have tolerated other religions that have no consideration for the incarnate Son of God who gave Himself for redemptive purposes. They have been so tolerant that it is believed by some that salvation is simply based on the merit of good works. Whether intentionally, or unintentionally, there are a host of philosophies today that are promoted by the religious world that actually originated from the minds unbelievers. Many of these beliefs have been accepted by those who profess to believe in the Bible.

Because Christians have often been intimidated by the majority, it is incumbent on us to bring to light some of these philosophies that are inconsistent with teachings that are revealed in the Bible in reference to God, and specifically, those philosophies that attack the very core of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. When speaking in reference to “non-Christian” religions, we must be cautious that we do not accept the gods of those who deny the incarnation of the God of the Bible. If we accept these gods, we will eventually deny the gospel.

We have also discovered that many who believe philosophies that attack the gospel, sometimes do not actually realized that they are harboring teaching that is against the gospel. However, we believe that they would realize their anti-gospel thinking if they considered the contradictions that exist between secular philosophy and gospel. But some have simply accepted the fact that their belief in the gospel, and the philosophies that contradict the gospel, is thinking with which we must live as Christians in this world.

Some do not want to voice the contradictions between a secular world view and the gospel lest they are accused of believing what the scientific world considers religious fables. And in a democratic society, some seek to be tolerant to the point of believing that everyone will end up in heaven on the basis of being a good person. But in believing this, they are denying the necessity of the gospel of grace. In this matter they would rather compromise their faith than stand firm on the historical facts of what the Bible teaches concerning the gospel.

[Next in series: May 20]

Christian World View

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”
(God the Holy Spirit)

In January 2019, David Bowles made a statement in a prominent US newspaper that was later repeated on the American TV program, Meet the Press. The statement is representative of the world view against which Christians must struggle in reference to their faith that is based on the Bible. Bowles’ statement was made in the context of political matters, but represents the neo-liberal thinking of Western civilization. He stated, “Why do people support [President] Trump? Its because people have been trained from childhood to believe in fairy tales ….” Bowles went on to explain what he believed was one of these fairy tales: “Show me a person who believes in Noah’s ark,” Bowles continued, “and I will show you a Trump voter.”

Our concern is not in reference to politics, but in reference to the world view of most citizens of the developed world, particularly the West. The world view of most people of the world is not based on a belief that the Bible is an inspired record of history, and certainly, not a God-given standard of moral values. It is believed by the majority of the world to be a book of fables. For the neo-liberal West, this is an unfortunate conclusion that leads civilizations to build their moral values on the inventions of man. According to the neo-liberal West, belief in the Bible is a hinderance to the ideology of progressive (liberal) thinking. It is a hindrance to social and economic growth.

This is the world in which we now live. It is a world citizenship that has either given up a knowledge of God, or never had such knowledge in the first place. Such societies have narcissistically established their own moral codes of behavior according to what pleases man. God is not a central factor in establishing the civil and moral values of nations throughout the world.

The eyeglasses through which we understand all that we believe to be real is what is referred to as our “world view.” Our world view is how we understand the world around us and how we should relate with one another as world citizens. We establish our world view by considering all the facts we learn from study and experience. Most of the time, these facts come to us through the literature we study. From the assimilation of all these facts and experiences, we establish what we consider to be truth, and thus, our world view determines our behavior. Our world view thus becomes the foundation upon which we write our moral and civil laws.

A good example of the importance of our world view is what we believe in reference to the origin of all life, as well as the origin of the universe in which we live. In reference to all origins, we have only two options: First, all life that now exists came into being as a result of a Creator. Second, life came into existence as a result of the spontaneous generation the atoms of the material world that over billions of years assimilated by chance into the biological function of life that we now experience in our world. Which option we choose in reference to the origin of life is the major building block of our world view.

How we view all that is around us is the primary foundation upon which we build our world view. It is necessary, therefore, that in this world in which we live today, Christians must define their world view. If one lives in an isolated village in the middle of Africa, he or she may have little concern for what his or her world view is in reference to life. This does not mean, however, that the isolated villager has no world view. He or she does. And it is upon the foundation of this world view that decisions and behavioral patterns are established even within those who cohabit in the isolated village.

If one lives in a business/industrial village somewhere in the world, his or her world view is central to existence in a complex society. In the developing world, society as a whole seeks to develop in a world of behavioral competition. Though competition may not be a key part of the social structure in some jungle village, it is a primary function of life for those who live in the social structure of the business/industrial world. In fact, without a sense of competition it is difficult to survive in the business/industrial world.

Therefore, it is important to understand our own world view because our world view governs how we interact with one another in society. Whether we live in an isolated village, or in a suburban residential center of some metropolitan area of the world, our world view, whether consciously or unconsciously, determines how we behave with our fellow human beings. It is imperative, therefore, that as Christians we are conscious of how we understand the world in which we live because this understanding determines how we will relate with one another as Christians, as well as with the unbelievers among whom we most live. Paul recognized this challenge when he wrote to the Christians in Achaia. He wrote that Christians must associate with those of the world, for the only alternative is “to go out of the world” (1 Co 5:10).

More important, understanding our world view will determine how we carry on with our responsibility to preach the gospel to the world. In the case of those who promote some type of religious belief that harbors teachings that contradict the world view of the Bible, the adherents of these teachings actually hinder the implementation of their faith. We are convinced that there are some antagonistic philosophies of the Western world view that have been adopted by Western religionists. These are those philosophies that work contrary to the existence of God, as well as the truth of the gospel. Because of this infusion of Western ideology into some Western religions, some groups thrive in a social environment wherein many of the adherents of some prominent religious groups actually believe that Noah’s ark is a fable. And beyond this, there are many in such groups who question the Bible teaching that our very existence is the result of a God of creation.

Gospel Living

FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL
We—a tribe of six—had finally shuffled ourselves into our own rented castle among almost ten million humans in Sao Paulo, Brazil. At the time we were still dazed by the multitude of different crunched cultures in an endless city that spread over the horizon. And most intriguing of all, the smog of the big city was eye-watering. Afternoons were as if a horror movie were in production and this brownish monster was hovering over the unfortunate inhabitants of Gotham City. Nevertheless, we felt somewhat reassured by shuffling our apprehensive clan into our first residence in this jungle of mixed humanity.

Suppressing every feeling to isolate ourselves into an unnatural lockdown, our first selection on the menu of neighborhood was to meet the neighbors. On one side of our settlement were Brazilian nationals. No problem there. Since we had four siblings from six years to six months, Brazilian hospitality had already poured out on us since our arrival overwhelming warmth … or maybe unspoken sympathy.

Camped on the other side of our encampment, however, was a German couple and their thirteen year old daughter. Since we had signed a peace accord with Germany after the great war, a United Nations conference was initiated. Being themselves foreigners in a strange land, they initiated a gracious move to invite Martha and I over for evening dining.

Martha and I were still just out of small-town America, myself being a small-town farm boy, and Martha was the city girl … well … town girl. Fortunately, we had lived for two years in Dallas, but that was only a sprint through big-city culture, and besides, in Texas there are no strangers. We then ended up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In our trivial introduction to life outside the Kansas cultural cocoon, we knew little about being drafted into the human coffee grinder of Brazil … and indeed, the coffee was terrific. It was simply a luscious experience to have one’s culture ground down into an expresso.

But knowing nothing of German culture, we eagerly accepted the invitation for an evening meal with our newly acquired neighbors. It was all so new to us. Our German friends knew a little English and Portuguese. We knew a lot of English, but little Portuguese, and certainly no German. Martha and I were still at the stage of moving into a new land, but a move to a land where we knew not the language of the land. We would often go shopping in a food store for tinned foods. If there were no art work or pictures on the labels of the tins on which there was only writing in Portuguese, mealtime back at the house was always a surprise event as to what we had bought at the store. Everyday, therefore, was another exciting exploratory adventure of what we would eat for the day.

So we were somewhat prepared for another entree on our list of unusual foods. Fortunately, our neighbors’ thirteen year old daughter knew a smattering of English that she had learned at school. She was thus the official interpreter for the evening.

When the evening came, we arrived in our evening dress ware, knowing nothing about what to expect. As young foreigners ourselves, we just assumed that we were out on another adventure to learn the culture, and especially the cultural foods of another tribe.

Our hosts were certainly presidential in presenting an eloquent atmosphere for a meeting of the league of nations. All dress was formally casual. The table presentation could not have been arranged with more precision for some foreign diplomat. Our hosts surely used a measuring ruler to lay out all the dishes and silverware. Glasses where regimented in-line on the table better than a group of disciplined German soldiers. Throughout the dining room, candles illuminated the serenity of the moment as we were ushered to our proper seating.

Once positioned, the lady of the hour brought out the starters that teased our taste buds for the main course. While working laboriously through our interpreter, the conversation was somewhat strained as we all sought to communicate with some precision what we wanted to say. When there was something lost in translation, repetition was necessary, but always softened by warmth that all of us needed in order to settle ourselves in for the evening.

And then it was the moment of the hour. Our host politely excused herself from the table, made her way back into the inner sanctuary of the kitchen, and eventually came forth with two large bowls. As she neared the table, I first became somewhat anxious, not trusting my vision in the dim light. I glanced over to Martha who was closer for inspection. And now she too slightly stiffened at what she discovered in the two bowls.

Our host was so gracious, not knowing that she was dealing with two young Kansas small-town transplants who knew only meals of tatters and gravy, with well-done beef that was baked just this side of being crisp. But when we looked into those two bowls, I am sure our host sensed our hesitation, and possibly wider than usual eyes. It was a Kodak moment of surprised in slow motion.

When we were initially seated at the table, both Martha and I thought the center presentation of the table was certainly exquisite, if not quite unique. There in the middle of the table were these two large candles burning under two pots that were covered with lids. We thought these were unique table decorations, and so commented our host for the presidential table presentation. We had no idea that we were revealing our Kansas naivete.

But Martha could not take her eyes off what was in those two bowls that our host eagerly placed on the table. Neither could I. We both thought, “What will we do?” Our minds were swirling, wondering what and how these Germans must usually eat. Was this something left over from the war? How could we possibly turn away from something that our host had spent so much time in preparation to please her guests.

Our host sensed tension in the air when she asked Martha how much she wanted of the contents of the two bowls. I was glad that she had first asked Martha. I was trying to recover from shock as to what I should do. I know what the apostle Paul said in reference to all food, “Ask no questions.” But at this moment, I was about to go beyond Bible instructions. I was about to blurt out a catalog of objections and questions concerning the contents of those two bowls.

So Martha sheepishly responded to our gracious host, “I’ll just take two small pieces.” I thought she was so brave. So following her lead, I too bravely said, “Give me the same,” though I could have settled for none. For the entire meal, I felt that I could just as well fill myself with the starters.

It was then that the understanding German mind of our host finally kicked in. The dots of the surprised expressions on the faces of the two foreigners, and the small blocks of chopped raw beef in the bowls, finally made our host realize that she was dealing with two uncultured locals who knew little about international cuisine. It was then that her Emily Vanderbilt etiquette went to work.

She very graciously explained, “This is a fondue meal. You can take the little forks on each of your plates, stick them into the squares of the raw meat in the bowls, and then cook them in the two pots of oil that are heating over the two candle flames. When they are cooked according to your liking, don’t worry, we have more raw meat in the kitchen.”

Her daughter was also graciously smiling as she translated these words for the two new natives.

Oh, did we all laugh … and relax. We two foreigners had just become international. So the evening went into the late hours. The food was just out of this world, at least out of our Kansas culture. I am sure our two new German friends have told this story a thousand times over about inviting over to their house the two naive Americans in Brazil who had never before experienced a fondue meal.

So Martha and I walked away from that educational experience with a reaffirmed principle of gospel living. And since I am writing these words almost fifty years later, a lot of different cuisine has passed through our teeth. In all this, we are thankful that God taught us early in our international ministry never to allow food to be an obstacle to friendship and preaching the gospel. An international Jew of the New Testament said it best: “I have become all things to all men so that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the sake of the gospel so that I might be partaker of it” (1 Co 9:22,23).

Thank You!

THANK YOU FOR YOUR PARTNERSHIP
I wanted to send out a note of “thank you” to everyone who has worked with me throughout the years in advertising the blogs. The blogs are now read by faithful Bible students in about 100 countries of the world. This would not have been possible if it were not for those of you who have told your friends about the blogs. Therefore, I want to thank each of you for continuing with me as I publish the initial writings of what eventually comes out as a book.

Most of my readers are in Europe and America. The reason for this is that most of the rest of the world does not have the privilege of being online all the time. Most of those in the developing world are limited in their online time, either at home, or at a computer cafe. Therefore, those who are in this situation, but read the blogs, need to have a special thanks for their loyalty.

I am presently working on three books. The first is at the proofreaders and will be published shortly. The other two will start appearing in segments in the next week or so. I do not apologize for the in-depth nature of what I write. In the theological world today – and I do not exaggerate – most of the religious books that are published are somewhat shallow in reference to exegetical studies in the text of the Bible. Therefore, I promise you that to the best of my studious ability, I will not seek to be shallow. That is not my purpose as a Bible student. I want to venture into God’s word to the extent that He inspired His word to be written.

I always remember a letter that I once received from one of my students over twenty years ago. I had written an editorial in a paper that we published for the International Bible Institute when it was active. In the editorial I quoted a couple students who said that the courses were very difficult. After the paper was sent out, another student wrote back and said, “What is all this complaining I hear about the courses being difficult? I READ THE TEXTBOOK TWELVE TIMES, and then I start studying through the Study Manual.”

My understanding of why the Holy Spirit took over 1,500 years to “write” the Bible was to make me feel good about studying every detail of what He had written. It is my goal to also take you there. The more we understand His word of inspiration, the better we feel.

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